The beauty of black-and-white cinema is undeniable, yet it’s largely ignored by the new generation who seemingly don’t even want to watch a film that’s over five years old. This is why films like “The Artist” or David Fincher’s “Mank” serve as a reminder that even the entire spectrum of vibrant colors cannot deliver what shades of grey can.
The year is 1940 and the scene is set in Victorville, California. Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is in the small town to work on the screenplay of “Citizen Kane”, the new feature film by Hollywood’s wunderkind, Orson Welles (Tom Burke), when he gets into a car accident. As the man recovers from his injuries, he finds it difficult to remain sober. With the help of flashbacks, we see the stark image of Mank, his work for MGM, friendship with Marion Davies and Hollywood’s worst-kept secret romance between Davies and William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). All these become part of “Citizen Kane” as Rita Alexander (Lily Collins’ second on-screen collaboration with Gary Oldman) types down the best piece ever written by Mank.
With the screenplay written by Jack Fincher (late father of David Fincher) and directed by his surviving son, “Mank” gives you everything you hope to see. The Billy Wilder type of shots, sceneries like “Gone with the Wind”, a beautiful score and the pristine costumes that recreate the era team up with astounding cinematography, literally leaving no questions to be asked. And of course, two actors who deliver an ethereal performance – Gary Oldman as the never sober yet brilliant Mank and Amanda Seyfried as the gentle, funny, intelligent and mostly misunderstood Marion Davies.
Seyfried’s depiction of Davies will recreate a new interest in the real character she portrayed while Oldman’s portrayal of Mankiewicz, the man who wrote the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” but had to fight to get due credit. The film follows his path through all the deception, which was too much even by then-Hollywood standards, and highlights his wisdom that proves they should have taken him more seriously. Whether it’s his sharp and biting lines or the brutal forthrightness, the film, with the help of flashbacks, recreates the man whose name can never be erased from the history of cinema.
David Fincher, who brought to us gems like “Seven”, “Zodiac”, “Gone Girl” and “Fight Club”, exceeds his own hefty standards to deliver one of the most beautifully shot films of our generation whose significance cannot yet be gauged. You neither have to be a black-and-white cinema lover nor have any idea about “Citizen Kane” to watch “Mank”. Fincher has given us a timeless masterpiece. As Mank says at some point, “You cannot capture a man’s entire life in two hours. All you can hope is to leave the impression of one.” Indeed, we can go and find many flaws in Fincher’s version of Mank’s life. But what he does is perfectly reiterated by Mank himself, leaving us wondering – was he was talking about himself?